The rural town of Roscoe, Nebraska is home to several beautiful abandoned buildings with obscure histories.
The few times I’d driven through Nebraska, I stuck to the Interstate, but this time I decided to spend more time on the rural highways. What a treat it was. From the freeway, Nebraska often looks like a monotonous stretch of farm fields, but if you venture out onto the rural highways, you’ll find that there are plenty of interesting places to see. Shortly after exiting I-80, I came to a lonely gas station near the banks of the South Platte River.
It appears to have been closed for decades, yet is still in very good condition. Nearly all of the windows are intact.
Several faded, rusting signs stand as reminders of a time when travelers regularly stopped to refuel and enjoy a brief respite from the road.
The spotlights that once illuminated the “Trucks” sign have long since gone dim.
The parking lot now serves as a storage area for cylindrical bales of hay.
As I finished capturing shots of this beautiful old gas station, a pickup truck pulled up. The driver, a friendly man with a long white beard, owns the property. He said he keeps a watchful eye and comes to investigate whenever he sees visitors stop by, which is why there is no vandalism or graffiti. He also told me that there used to be four gas stations, one on each corner. The other three were demolished years ago, but this one remains standing because of the cost involved with removing the underground fuel storage tanks.
We talked for a little while before going our separate ways. I crossed the historic bridge over the South Platte River to the town of Roscoe. Situated along the Lincoln Highway, Roscoe is easy to miss; it is only about 5 blocks long. Many mistake it for a ghost town because of a stretch of crumbling buildings along the highway, the remains of businesses that closed long ago. But Roscoe actually has a population of about 62 people, which seems about right when you consider that the town’s footprint covers only .16 square miles.
I was able to find very little historical information about the town. Apparently, Roscoe was founded in the early 1870s when Union Pacific extended its main railroad line through the area. Roscoe and other settlements in the area began as railway stations, where steam-powered locomotives stopped to refill their tanks with water from the South Platte River. The city of Ogallala, the county seat of Keith County, lies about 7 miles west along the Lincoln Highway and began as a major cattle center.
One of Roscoe’s most recognizable features is the building that once housed Chamberlin’s store. It is unclear when the store was founded or when it closed, but I was able to find a bit of information about the people who worked there.
Heman Sargeant “Ben” Chamberlin, originally from Michigan, moved to Roscoe around 1910. According to a genealogy website, he was a storekeeper, though it is unclear whether he founded the store or acquired it from previous owners. The family owned the adjacent cabins and gas stations as well. His son, Harvey Jasper Chamberlin, also worked at the store and other family businesses that now sit vacantly and heavily weathered.
The old gas station, like the neighboring shuttered businesses, has thankfully been spared from the ravages of graffiti and vandalism.
I peered through the windows and found that the service station still contains quite a few artifacts. A poster with the words “In Remembrance of September 11, 2001” hung on the wall, indicating that it remained open as recently as the early 2000s.
Green Bay Packers’ wind chime hangs from the ceiling. Judging by the Shakedown Street sticker in the window, the owner is a fan of the Grateful Dead.
The stunning photos of an abandoned Roscoe town, Nebraska were taken by Jim Sullivan. Jim Sullivan is a traveler, who shares his stories with followers If you’d like to see more abandoned places, then check out our articles on the History of Searchlight: Ghost Town of Nevada and the Sunken Mar Sem Fim yacht in Antarctica